This is Trahant Reports.
So the data show that the vast majority of Native Americans vote for Democrats. And most run for office as Democrats. Of the active candidates on my #NativeVote16 boards there are 75 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and 4 independents.
If you look at history, there are a lot more American Indians and Alaska Natives who have won office under the Republican banner. That list includes: Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne, who joined the Republican Party after his election; Vice President Charles Curtis; as well as the only current members of Congress, Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin.
The Republican Party platform says: “Based on both treaty and other law, the federal government has a unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility for Indian Tribal Governments …These obligations have not been sufficiently honored.”
Oklahoma’s U.S. Rep. Cole is perhaps the most senior and respected Republican who’s also a member of a tribe. “As an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, I am very proud of my heritage … I am committed to advocating on behalf of Native Americans in Congress.”
Cole’s advocacy is routine and powerful. He was instrumental in the 2013 enactment of the Violence Against Women Act because he gave cover to Republicans who voted for the measure
Cole has called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and, at the same time, has consistently said the United States government has “fallen behind” in its funding of the Indian health system. He often advocates for spending more on Indian health throughout the budget and appropriations process.
Perhaps the strongest case that Republican candidates for office make to Native American voters is that they will be inside the room when the party makes decisions on American Indian issues. Rep. Bruce Meyer of the Montana Legislature said he was able to convince Republicans to support tribal water compacts with the state. “We need friends on both sides,” he said. “It’s good that I am on the other side of the aisle. I tell people that I am out to get the best deal for American Indians no matter which party because that’s my constituency.”
There is one question that every Republican has to answer this election: What do you think about your party’s nominee for president?
Rep. Cole, who is an important voice for party leadership, says that’s really not an issue. He said on NBC: “This is a choice. It’s a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump … and, frankly, if you’re a Republican that’s a pretty easy choice.”
Then again not every Native American candidate is quite so eager to embrace Donald Trump.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.